Murphy, please go home

When I was young and it seemed like one thing after another broke at the house, my parents would talk about how they wished the gremlin would go find someone else’s house to play in. After one particularly bad stretch of luck — the refrigerator door handle came off, the air conditioner broke and the sink backed up  and all on the same day — my mother actually made grabbing motions in the middle of the kitchen and marched out to the back fence and tossed her imaginary gremlin over the fence. If that wasn’t odd enough for a tween to watch, hearing her usually level-headed mother yell at the gremlin not to come back certainly was. Of course, when the neighbor whose yard she had tossed the “gremlin” into started complaining about things breaking down all of a sudden, we just looked at one another and tried not to burst out laughing.

That gremlin was Murphy, he of the bad luck fame. It is clear he has decided to track us down again. It doesn’t matter that years have passed since he last wreaked such havoc on the family. It certainly doesn’t appear to matter that we have moved — heck, I’ve moved at least four times since then. No, with the tracking ability of the best trained drug dog, he has taken up residency again and I am ready for him to leave. Bad enough he broke the garbage disposal (and man have those gone up in price since the last time I replaced one). Then it was my 13 month old iPad. Firmly and carefully encased in the best protective case I could find, it dropped three feet and the screen shattered in a zillion pieces.

Color me not happy but I could live. I used the iPad mainly to research while writing. I could transfer that over to the Kindle Fire or the Surface Pro 3. At least when I wasn’t at my desk and could simply hook the laptop up to multiple monitors. Noooo problem. Right?


Last week, the Fire HDX, 121/2 months after purchase but still under extended warranty, started acting up. Upon waking it would sometimes give me a blank screen or only half a screen. Sometimes everything would be all right. A soft reboot would send my saves in my e-books back two to three days minimum. But only on the Fire. If I checked on the laptop or the Surface Pro 3, the e-book would open to exactly where I’d left off. And then there was the wonderful overlay screen that would come up and tell me I was in full screen mode. Sometimes I could dismiss it and sometimes I couldn’t.

So, multiple phone calls to Amazon on Saturday and then they call me Sunday. They have the solution. There is the wonderful new software update that will “solve all the problems they are having with their Fire HDXs.” I kid you not. That is what the tech who called me said. Only one problem. Murphy’s cousin was visiting Amazon at the time and the webpage I had to go to in order to download the new update came up with an error message. Let me tell you, the tech really went into a tailspin then.

Fast forward to yesterday and the main reason for this rambling post. The update was finally available for download. Like a good customer, and because I was making copious notes and mad enough to call if anything went wrong, I downloaded the update and side-loaded it into my Fire HDX. Then I waited as it installed. So far, so good. Installation completed and I opened up the book I’d been reading.

And that is when things went downhill fast.

Murphy has now become a frigging programmer for Amazon. Worse, he is one who did not think about the impact of what he has done. You see, with the new update, there is a “feature” that is added to the Kindle app that “helps” you by offering to let you buy the next book in the series or buy the Audible version of the book so “you can listen along while you read”. I kid you not.

They have now put ads into their app and, glory of glories — not!, when you happen to activate the ad, it drops down from the top of the page and will cover up to 4 lines of text. Talk about throwing you out of the book. Oh, and it doesn’t disappear until you tap the page again and dismiss it.

So, yes, your Mad Genius, one of the Redheads of Doom, once again called Amazon. No, this is not something that can be turned off. It is a “feature”. No, it doesn’t cover the text. Oooh, sorry, it does. But we can’t do anything about it. No, we can’t roll your kindle back to the previous OS.

Head, meet desk.

As a reader, this pisses me off to no end. For one thing, I don’t want narration AS I’M READING. For another, if I accidentally tap the middle of the page, I don’t want an ad popping up to throw me out of the plot. But there is another issue that really bothers me. I paid to remove the “special offers” from my Fire. Why? Because I didn’t want ads. Now, even though I paid, I am getting ad. But, according to Amazon, these aren’t ads but are “additional features”.


From and author standpoint, it bothers me even more. I don’t want readers to think that I’ve authorized this sort of ad. I didn’t. I wasn’t consulted and, to the best of my knowledge, I’m not going to get any additional monies for purchases made through this new “feature”. It isn’t like clicking on an Amazon Associates link and making a purchase which will give me a very small percentage of the sales price. This is pure profit for Amazon.

More on that in a moment.

But it still not only violates the spirit of asking customers to pay to remove the special offers but, worse, it will upset our readers who, very possibly, blame us for this unwanted distraction. I don’t know about you but I’min the business of trying to keep my readers happy, not to upset them.

I don’t mind Amazon making a profit. It’s a huge corporation and it has to make money in order to continue doing what it does best. I appreciate all it has done to help indie authors and I have never been one to jump onto the Amazon Hater Bandwagon. But this is one of Amazon’s most boneheaded decisions in a very long time. I get wanting to direct customers to the next book in the series. But guess what, Amazon already does that with the page that pops up at the end of any e-book directing customers to where they can rate the book they’ve just finished and where they can see what else the author has for sale. The same sort of thing could be done for the Audible links. Heck, Amazon could include that information in what it gives in the popup that appears when you first open a book. It isn’t something that has to appear each and every time you happen to tap a page, whether by accident, to check your progress in the book or to be able to look up a word in the dictionary.

Add in a tear in my Achilles tendon and related problems that had caused and, well, Murphy the Gremlin can go visit someone else. I have books to write and it is hard to do when my tech keeps breaking and my body decides it needs to scream in pain.

So, does anyone know a good Gremlin extermination service they’d be willing to recommend?


  1. I don’t know if they work in this world, but have you tried digging out some of the old Doc Strange comics and using one of his incantations? They are bizarre enough they might spook the gremlin into leaving. or he’ll die of laughter.

    Yeah, I was so thrilled (NOT) when my Paperwhite auto-updated. I don’t want those features, I don’t want it leaping of into the internet when I’m trying to look up a German word, and I don’t want all that mess of author info when I’m starting to read. They must have been infected by something blowing in from the office that “improves” MS Word.

  2. You paid to not receive advertisements but you are receiving advertisements? As they are no longer giving you the service you paid for ask for your money back. If they cannot do this call the Better Business Bureau.

  3. I won’t offer to swap you a kidney stone for a torn Achilles tendon. I suspect each is about as painful and debilitating as the other . . .

  4. I think Monster Hunter International has a cadet/trainee program that would be ideal for gremlin extermination. And if it doesn’t, it should. Going after the big monsters is good for PR, but you can really clean up if you aim for high volume services.

    1. I definitely support this idea. (And I could see a smaller company actually doing it. “We’re not tough enough to handle the big things but gremlins? We got this.”)

  5. That Murphy is a clever bugger. I always try to hope for the best but plan for the worst, and he still manages to surprise me on a fairly regular basis. Like that incident a few weeks ago where the neighborhood lost power for an hour after a thunder storm, but my house alone was powerless for a full day.
    When I decided to expand my horizons and add a dedicated e-reader to my practice of reading books on the computer I purchased the most basic Kindle available, one with ads included. Went on line with it exactly once to register. That was at least three years ago. Since then, every .azw file from Amazon or .mobi from elsewhere gets downloaded to my computer first, then side loaded into the Kindle. Never been a problem and I don’t get new ads popping up on me. Never bothered with any software updates either.
    When that Kindle passes into the land of dead electronics some day I will most likely buy a paper white. Not looking forward to the eventual inevitable loss of my old friend. Only advantage would appear to be the backlit screen so not so much need of a reading lamp any more, but I know the controls are different and now you tell me about this popup crap. Here’s hoping some clever hacker figures out a way to eliminate that “feature” in the new devices.

    1. Get a used Paperwhite. I did, and like you, I registered it in wifi, then offline it went and has stayed that way. Haven’t bothered with any updates, there are no ads to annoy, and incidentally, no handy dandy wifi signals it has access to even if it wanted to hop online.

      If t’aint broke dinnae fix it. *grin*

  6. I’d call your mom and have her come catch it and pitch it over the fence again!

  7. Find a lawyer with a Kindle and whisper “Class Action Suite” in his ear. This “feature” would undoubtedly be interpreted by the courts as a contract violation.

  8. Sounds like Amazon is finally going senile. Which means market opportunities.

  9. Here’s the thing about Murphy and gremlins: You can’t excise them from your life. The moment you try to do that, and achieve some success, you’ll realize that all you’ve really accomplished is to lay out bait for more and better of both to come into your life. Just like how making something “idiot proof” is seen by the Universe as a challenge, and automatically calls into being a new and thoroughly improved idiot, any attempt to work around Murphy or eradicate gremlins is seen as a threat, and then dealt with by dispatching more of the same, but better.

  10. Leslie Fish knows where gremlins come from…

    Little sprites of the ancient woods used to come to the door
    Get paid off with a bowl of milk—but not any more.
    Watching humans make machines and treat the wild with scorn
    Little sprites swore a great revenge—thus were gremlins born.

    Woods cut down and farmland spoiled, what should gremlins do?
    They all moved to this Brave New World, seeking pastures new.
    They found a home in machinery, among the whirling gears.
    They moved all of their families in, and they’ve been there for years.

    (The gremlins may have moved on from mechanical machinery in recent years; see for more about that theory.)

  11. I can’t quite tell (and have none of the devices involved myself), but that sounds somewhat like the difference between the “Kindle-Ad Free” and the “Kindle-Ad Subsidized”.

    That is: Somewhere Murphy’s “upgrade” switched what -product- you had as far as the software was concerned. And customer service is thinking “No, that’s precisely the way it is supposed to work … for the people with the ad-supported devices”.

  12. Used to be that I’d recommend B&N, for the reason that they didn’t play the same sort of games as Amazon.

    They changed their policies last September, when they removed download access to the books on their website.

    I’d used to download my B&N books in my browser, and store them in Calibre, and then use Calibre to move them onto my browser. The few Kindle books I’d buy I’d have to download in the Kindle app for the PC, find the .mobi files, and copy them over to the Linux box I’m running Calibre on. Since last September, I’ve had to play the same games with books I buy from B&N.

    When I buy a book, from whatever source, I’m buying a book. I’m not renting it for as long as the vendor chooses to keep their servers running. If I cannot control the file, include it in my backups, and copy it to whatever devices I choose, I won’t buy it.

    Most of the ebooks I have in my library came from Project Gutenberg, with B&N in second place, and Amazon a distant third. But now, the process of getting control of the file is just as cumbersome for B&N as it is for Amazon. So why, then, should I continue to buy my books from B&N?

    Actually, most of the books I’ve bought since last September have been from Google Play.

  13. Some quick suggestions on the Fire HDX:

    Try looking at user’s forums. It wouldn’t be the first time a user had a solution that’s not in the customer support script.

    There’ seems to be an ongoing “war” between users jailbreaking Kindle Fires and Amazon finding ways to prevent it. What shakes out of this are various ways to get to “root” a device and do things like restore previous versions of the OS. Be aware it is possible to brick a device this way, so proceed with caution.

    Also be aware of the new Android bug warning. Since Fires are Android devices with proprietary extras, it could be subject to it. Did the last Amazon
    patch fix it? Don’t know.

    FWIW, other than my old Kindle keyboard, I’ve had bad luck with the devices. Kindle keyboard died due to operator error (sat on it). Kindle Touch #1 developed hardware problems our of warranty. Touch #2 developed problem under warranty, and they replaced it with a Paperwhite with half the memory. It’s not a year old so the I can’t comment on it. Note that the new Paperwhites seems to have the same memory as the old Touch. I’ve already decided that if this goes out, I might replace it with a relatively cheap refurbished tablet and put a Kindle app on it.

    Best of luck.

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